By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Oregonians tricked into annual sessions

We were bamboozled when we supported the 2010 statewide ballot measure to allow annual sessions of the Oregon Legislature … and we had lots of company.

More on that below, but first, the 2016 fallout:

Super-majority Democrats entered the limited 35-day session ready to pass sweeping legislation without adequate time for public debate. Republicans, with barely enough votes to avoid being steamrolled in all matters, resorted to obstructionism.

Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli referred to the strategy as “creative dissent.” However, Ferrioli and other Republicans consider obstructionism a defensible response to the ruling party’s rush to judgment on matters that should be reserved to the longer sessions in odd years.

Republicans slowed matters by requiring that all bills be read aloud in full, prior to floor votes. That didn’t halt approval of the nation’s highest state minimum wage, and Democrats promptly scheduled night floor sessions to allow voting time for the rest of their bloated agenda.

Wednesday afternoon, Senate Republicans walked out to deny a quorum for the scheduled 5 p.m. session. At press time Thursday, it was unknown whether that tactic will continue to be employed, but it was clear that partisanship in Salem was nearing an all-time high.

State Sen. Brian Boquist, describing unsuccessful efforts by the Republican caucus to learn which bills the Democrats still intended to pass, concluded, “If neither the public nor their elected Legislators will be told what is scheduled, then there in no need for night or weekend sessions.”

The 2010 statewide Voter Pamphlet did not draw a single argument in opposition to limited annual sessions replacing the marathon biennial session. Public discussion focused on the need in short-session years to balance budgets, respond to economic crises and address emergency policy needs.

Our newspaper joined in support of a measure that won 68-32 statewide. We wrote: “Passage of this measure doesn’t give legislators free rein; in fact, it dictates enough time in odd-numbered years to enact laws and pass a biennial budget, while allowing approximately one month the following year to re-balance the budget, if necessary, and to more efficiently address emergency issues.”

Oregonians never contemplated a barrage of far-reaching legislation being forced through a 35-day session. And while some of that legislation responds to ballot measure blackmail, the high risk of those measures flows directly through the majority party in control.

Oregonians, having ceded total control to one party, should prepare to pay the consequences.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.comor 503-687-1223.


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